Ancient Greek calendars noted a cycle between late June and July as the year's start; in Athens, this period coincided with Skirophorion -- after the Skira Festival -- and before Hekatombaion, following summer solstice, as the moon and sun became linked in a lunisolar cycle. Most Ancient Greek festivals also marked agricultural phases. Skira was also associated with the Thesmophoria, an autumn event that celebrated harvest with the goddess Demeter. All months were named after ancient gods and goddesses until the calendar became Romanized during the empire. The Attic festivals provided the foundation for feasting in Imperial Rome.
The Skira Festival was one of dissolution of the old year and marked by fasting, processions, and a ceremonial rite that took place under a sacred canopy between Athena and Poseidon. In the Etruscan calendar, July was "turane;" in Imperial Rome, January was considered the start of the year. That tradition began with Caesar's Julian calendar around 45 BC and stuck.
The Roman goddess of grain was Ceres and her festival was celebrated in Aprilis for seven days at a Cerealia Festival with "ludi," which included horse races and lit torches in the C ircus Maximus. The strongest evidence for the structure of religion and society in Classical Antiquity is the votive tablet, which can be grouped into three types -- private, military, and public. Private votives consisted of mainly spiritual intentions and prayer for blessing at religious deities. Military vows took place at the Capitoline before war. Public votives were of a political nature and took place at the start of a political office term.
A great resource for teachers and independent learners alike is the ancient site of Pompeii, the Roman city destroyed by a volcanic eruption at Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Other classroom units can be built around the themes of feasting in Classical Greek or Imperial Roman culture. One of these is the Hoxne Hoard Treasure of Suffolk, UK, or a study of the mythical kings Arthur or Beowulf.
After a discussion of the ancient Greek and Roman festivals, an introductory and follow-up activity might include an examination of images of the Hoxne Hoard, and a creative writing task that describes a trip to a far off land to attend a Roman Festival near the Roman Trier. The student should choose one Roman Festival and describe it, write out the correct names for the Hoxne items and use them to describe their purpose.
Some key words for independent online searches might include:
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